Traditionally in Africa many small, often ambulatory businesses have used hand-painted, hand-constructed signs to advertise their business. The business person may have an actual store front but more often just sets up shop along any street and moves around town from day to day as the business prospects appear better in different parts of town. In the case of people who cut hair, men’s or women’s, this is a very common option in all parts of Africa. To support those people in business there are very accomplished artists who make their living as commercial artists, painting signs for any business, itinerant or in a fixed location. This sign was painted by hand by a commercial artist for a woman who styles women’s hair, a beauty salon. This sign measures 39 1/4 x 23 3/8″ (100 x 59 cm), without the legs. This sign is one half of a sandwich sign which we have separated into its two sides. The two sides were connected at the top with a hinge so it would stand alone when opened and would be visible from both sides. The other side is available for purchase on this site as well, item #641. This side features, in pink, the words “Chez T. Kaka”, written in French since French is the official language of Togo, the country where we got this sign. The sign features 3 large women’s heads, each with a different hairstyle. In the upper center of the sign is the largest woman’s head, her head turned slightly to the left. She is wearing a red sleeveless top with pink trim over a black undergarment and triangle earrings. Her hairstyle is very tall, with a ringlet in the center of her forehead and one each at her temples. She and the other women on the sign have bright red lips. The women’s heads in the lower left and right are large too but not as large as the head in the center of the sign. The woman in the lower left is wearing a dark green blouse with light green trim and a large white collar and rounded earrings. She has a hairstyle parted in the middle and is cut close to her face; she is looking straight ahead. The woman in the lower right of the sign is wearing a dark red sleeveless top with pink trim. She is looking to the left; her head is in profile and she is wearing a red necklace with a red cross. Her hairstyle is short.
All 3 of the women’s hairstyles show a lot of detail, a lot of texture, as African hairstyles typically do. The wooden sandwich frame to which the sign is attached is painted blue; the blue legs, extending from that frame, are still present but could be removed easily. The sign could be removed from the frame or be kept on it. The sign is painted on a thin piece of wood the top veneer of which has begun to separate from wear from the rest of the wood on which the sign is painted in a few places around the edge, especially in a fairly noticeable area in the top left of the sign, mostly eliminating the letter C in the word “Chez”. All over the surface of the painting there are small marks, evidence of use. This sign clearly was made years ago and was used for many years before it was sold to us. This form of African art is contemporary; these signs continue to be made although currently the trend seems to be to more professionally printed signs on paper which is now cheaper than hiring an artist. This, therefore, is one of the last of a dying art. This sign was well used for some time but not so old as to have been worn as much as some older signs. Except for the moderate wear around the edges and the missing veneer in the upper left corner it is in pretty good condition. The quality of the painting of the women’s heads is very good.